AQAP: Steadfast Intent to Target US Aviation

Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to demonstrate its willingness to attack US aviation, prompting the United States to implement new security enhancements in this sector. Since 2009, the group has plotted unsuccessfully to blow up airliners over the United States three times using various non-metallic explosive devices, which can evade security detection. The chief architect of these attacks, bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, likely remains active in Yemen.

  • In March, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) banned personal electronic devices in carry-on luggage onboard flights destined for the United States from 10 overseas commercial airports. TSA cited interest from foreign terrorist organizations, such as AQAP, in targeting the Aviation Sector.
  • Several days after TSA’s announcement, a previously published issue of AQAP’s English-language magazine Inspire recirculated on social media, focusing almost entirely on aviation. The issue provided advice on “field tactics,” including the best place to detonate an explosive while on an airline and instructions for assembling bombs and avoiding security.

  • In February 2016, al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Somalia, detonated an improvised explosive device concealed in a laptop on a plane departing Mogadishu. The group followed instructions found in the same Inspire edition, including where to sit on the plane and where to place the device to cause maximum damage.


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